Cortez, Colorado

All States Building Trust to Reach Missing Voices

Cortez was updating its comprehensive plan and revising its land use code. City planners wanted to get residents, especially missing voices, involved in planning.

8,500 population of Cortez
30% of the population is Native American and Hispanic
$39,000 median income compared to $59,000 for the state

Building Trust to Reach Missing Voices

Heart & Soul Minute: Youth at the Table in Cortez, Colorado

Heart & Soul Minute: Town Planner—Heart & Soul is a New Way to Do Business

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A Better Way to Do business

Community Heart & Soul changed the way Cortez engaged groups that had not been involved in local government, the Ute Mountain Ute tribe, the Hispanic community and youth among them. Here’s how:

– The Ute Mountain Ute tribe who contributed to the design of a gateway sign at the southern entrance to town, nearest to their tribal lands. Having the tribe participate in the design that included culturally relevant symbols was a way to honor and respect them.

– After months of networking in the Hispanic community, the Heart & Soul team sponsored a block party in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood on September 16, Mexican Independence Day. The event was organized by the local residents who served their food, invited the school principal and teachers to hold meetings with parents, and included a Spanish-to-English interpreter, and the police chief. This led to greater trust, including a better relationship with law enforcement.

– To increase youth participation, full voting seats were granted to youth on the Parks and Recreation, Golf, and Library advisory boards. Students were given a graffiti wall in the skateboard park and graffiti incidents in town were reduced dramatically.

Community Heart & Soul also changed the way local government did business with residents, developers and even the state transportation agency.

– Established a new way for developers to do business by encouraging them to meet, discuss, and resolve differences with neighbors well in advance of public hearings.

– Created a plan for the city’s main street, a state highway, that was accepted by the state, setting a precedent for collaboration between the city and state transportation agency. Previously, the state treated the road like any major highway, not as a gateway to the town lined with shops.